Ask the Readers $200 Giveaway: What Volunteer Experience Had the Deepest Impact on You?

By Ashley Jacobs on 20 May 2014 (Updated 27 May 2014) 188 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Diane, Anna, and Susan for winning this week's contest!

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding — and frugal — ways to make a difference in community. And with nearly 65 million Americans reporting having volunteered last year, chances are you’ve made it a point to give of your time to support a worthy cause. From volunteering at a school or food bank to participating in a walk for charity, we want to hear what volunteer experience impacted you the most!

What volunteer experience had the deepest impact on you? What made it so impactful? Did you share the experience with someone else?

This week, to celebrate its annual Schwab Volunteer Week in which thousands of employees volunteer in communities nationwide, Charles Schwab is sponsoring $200 in prizes for our Ask the Readers giveaway! Make sure to tell us about the volunteer experience that had the deepest impact on you and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $150 or one of two $25 Amazon Gift Cards!

Win a $150 Amazon Gift Card or 1 of 2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — here's how you can win!

Mandatory Comment Entry for a Chance to win a $150 Amazon Gift Card:

  • Post your answer in the comments below. One commenter will be randomly selected to win a $150 Amazon Gift Card!

To win one of two $25 Amazon gift cards:

  • You can tweet about our giveaway for an extra entry. Use our Rafflecopter widget for your chance to win one of two $25 Amazon Gift Cards:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, May 26th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after May 26th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

This week, our Ask the Readers giveaway is sponsored by Charles Schwab to celebrate Schwab Volunteer Week!

Here is a message from our sponsor:

“Serving our communities is an important part of Schwab’s culture. Each year we provide paid time off for employees to volunteer, and we also organize a nationwide, week-long volunteer event called Schwab Volunteer Week (May 19-23, 2014), where thousands of employees volunteer with local nonprofits. This year’s event has a record number of participants, with more than 3,700 Schwabbies donating approximately 15,000 service hours to 258 projects benefiting nearly 200 charities.

We support a vibrant mix of national nonprofit groups such as Boys & Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill and The Salvation Army, as well as local schools, parks, food banks, cultural centers, and organizations that provide health and human services to women, children, families and seniors.

For the first time this year Schwab will pilot skills-based volunteering during Schwab Volunteer Week, The “Skills Marathon,” which will debut in both San Francisco and Denver, will consist of a half day of consulting in which teams of Schwab employees will help nonprofit organizations with business strategy, marketing, corporate communications, human resources and technology, giving them tangible advice and solutions for their real-world challenges.

Employee volunteer stories and photos will be posted throughout the week on the Schwab Talk blog. To learn more about what drives our commitment to investing in our communities during Schwab Volunteer Week and throughout the year, watch this video.”

© 2014 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (Member SIPC) All rights reserved

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Lisa Brown

I volunteered at a retirement center. It was eye opening. It can feel heavy on you when you go in because of the state of many of the occupants. You don't realize the loneliness of most of the elderly in homes, until you visit or work there. They love the interaction with anyone that comes by, and you can always expect a story or two, if you ask (they are anxious to share their lives with you). I left there with the determination to not let my elderly loved ones know they are loved and I will be there for them :)

Guest's picture
Tina in NJ

I volunteer a lot at church. The activity that has impacted me the most (so far) has been working with the preschool craft/singing group. I seem to have a knack for teaching kids crafts.

Guest's picture
Elena

volunteering at a food bank and seeing so many people in need had the deepest impact on me

Guest's picture
Christie

Going to Honduras and volunteering in an orphanage had the greatest impact on me. Knowing that my children at home were loved and cared for (even without me being there physically for a few days) and these children were so starved for love and affection was heartwrenching. Some of them had physical and mental limitations and the workers cared for them physically, but didn't give them any emotional support. I realize how very blessed I am to have been born in the family I was, raised with love and support, and am able to pass that on to my children. It also makes me more conscious that I need to support those without such blessings.

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Betty

Although I have volunteered at our local food pantry, D.A.R.E. Night out events, etc, the one that really opened my eyes was when I volunteered to be on the board for the town's little league girls softball. I had no idea how much work goes on behind the scenes to make a league run. I did it for six years, and stepped down when my daughter went to high school. I still donate money to the league though.

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

Being involved as an assistant troop leader with the Girls Scouts. My oldest daughter was in Girl Scouts for nine years. The last four years I was the assistant leader and my friend (who had two girls in the troop) was the leader and had been for all nine years. We had 10 girls in our troop. It was a great experience teaching these girls so many things, including how to start a fire, cook a meal over an open fire, how to use and maintain a pocket knife, rafting, horseback riding, fundraising (can you say Girl Scout Cookies!), giving back to the community (park clean-ups, dog/cat shelter collections), and how to work together as a team, as well as watching them as they grew into young adults. Most of these girls are 20 this year and have finished their second year in college. Some went right into the work force. All of them are confident, strong young women who I know will do well in the future. It gives me great pleasure knowing that in some way I helped give these girls the skills and tools they needed to succeed in life.

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Mary Happymommy

When I lived in NJ, I volunteered with an organization called "Hand in Hand". They had a festival celebration each year for people with Down's Syndrome. I volunteered to work with the games. I did it for several years as a young teen and I think it taught me to be accepting of people with special needs.

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APH

A lifelong animal lover, I volunteered for several years at my local SPCA animal shelter. Not only did I enjoy caring for the sweet, lonely animals awaiting adoption, I was excited to have the chance to speak to potential adopters about the joys of pet ownership and to help match them with their ideal pets. I loved seeing children's faces light up when they held a kitten or cat for the first time, knowing first-hand how wonderful it is to grow up with a pet (or two or three!).

Guest's picture

Volunteering with the Peace Corps made the most impact on me personally and professionally.

Guest's picture
Allison

Doing a day of work delivering meals in New York City to those who were too sick to leave their apartments. I was there as a group with my universities Honors Program and we had 2 days worth of volunteer work in addition to being tourists. Getting a chance to hear the stories of the people was so much fun.

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Tara

Volunteering with Girls on the Run has literally changed my life. It has given me self confidence, positive outlook on life, and a new way to reshape how I see myself, others and life. The life lessons provided in the book to give to the girls are applicable for coaches and women as well and are amazing. I started coaching in 2011 and love coaching every season.

Guest's picture

I volunteer to coach patients who have had all or part of their intestines removed due to illness or cancer. Sadly very few people are able to talk comfortably about their bowels, ileostomies or colostomies. Colon cancer is prevalent, but finding information from those who have been through the battle is not as common. Although I never want to see anyone battling a severe illness, I am grateful I can help in some way.

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Gina

Working two jobs hasn't left me with much time to volunteer. Volunteering is more of a luxury for the rich and people who have lots of free leisure time. I do a little bit of online volunteer work providing advice and ideas and it's nice to help but didn't have much of an impact on me and I didn't share it with anyone else.

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Troy

Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity was a wonderful experience. Every person in the world deserves to have affordable housing.

Guest's picture

The volunteer opportunity that had the greatest impact on me, and my family, was opening up our home to a woman who was homeless and needed a place to stay for week until the local shelter had a bed ready for her. My daughter offered her room for the woman to sleep in and we enjoyed family meals with our guests, who happened to be a great storyteller. Her transparency about how she came to be homeless taught my family how fragile home stability can be, and how blessed we were to have each other. Our eyes were opened to the diverse reasons people become homeless, and how important it is not to judge others by their circumstances.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Love this. What a fabulous lesson for us all to remember.

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Diane

I've volunteered as a Cub Scout leader, as a soccer coach & as a classroom volunteer and room mother. Volunteering in the classroom was a huge eye opener, in seeing everything that teachers have to do, what they have to deal with and how much effort they put into their classrooms and students. Teachers are definitely not paid enough and need more help and support than they get.

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KelR1

Volunteering with the Humane Society has had the deepest impact on me. Many years ago I did some dog walking for my local shelter and that inspired me to eventually adopt two dogs from the HS. I have also donated money and have done their annual Walk for Animals that helps raise much-needed funds to care for the pets waiting for their forever homes. It's very gratifying and inspiring to see the positive spirit and resilience of these animals and to know you're helping in some small way to get them the life they deserve.

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Ernest S.

I volunteered for an organization called Camp Laurel, which helps provide camps for kids infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. It was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had. It was eye-opening to see what these kids have to deal with at such an early age, and it gave me such an appreciation for all that I have in my life.

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Anu

As a freshman in college, I went on a week long service trip. We tutored, cooked meals at a shelter, and helped refurbish a church into a school. I learned that volunteering can be fun and engaging, not a task we force ourselves to do because we think we should. I also met my boyfriend of five years on that trip.

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Guest

I just finished volunteering with a weekend camp for kids who had a close family member die, Camp Erin. It was fantastic!! I highly recommend it for anyone. :)

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Happy Love

I volunteered to help fill brown grocery bags for a seniors supplemental food program at a food bank years ago, and I was surprised by how much of the food for the seniors was high in sugar and/or salt even though many senior have health issues that make such foods dangerous to eat.

I regularly buy extra food that's on sale at the grocery store now for our small, local food pantry, and I specifically look for healthier, low sugar, and/or low salt options that would be needed by someone with high blood pressure or diabetes.

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OFG

Working at soup kitchens while I was in college. One year we created a stand in the park and one woman walked back up to the table five different times. When a volunteer said, "that's so greedy," one of the full time volunteers said, "she is trying to hoard food for the entire week. Some people never know when they might eat again." I now carry extra apples and oranges in the car and hand them out to homeless people who pan handle on busy streets.

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Alison James

The biggest effect volunteering had on me was to work with rehabbing severely damaged in all ways- Wild caught parrots, some as old as 80 plus years. They can to me with emotional, behavioral, medical needs and more. What made my heart sing is they got better and found appropriate homes for life. These creatures have the intelligence of a five year old child. I was honored to share in there lives for the time they were with me sometimes up to 5 years.

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Carrie

Of the volunteering opportunities I've had, being a "big sister" with Big Brother Big Sister has had the biggest impact on me. When I began, I never expected it to be so rewarding. I've had the opportunity to watch a young lady grow and mature and be there with her for her journey through middle school and now, high school. It's been wonderful to share in her milestones.

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Sable misses Eva

I fostered a wonderful dog (German Shepherd) long-term. For anyone who is wondering, fostering an animal is to take a shelter/rescue animal into your home and provide love, food, training, care, etc while the animal awaits adoption. She was a tough case - health issues, older, deep-seeded behavioral problems. But she grabbed onto a little piece of me and we wound up being her forever home. She died three weeks ago tomorrow (at home, in my arms) and I will miss her forever. She made me more tolerant of both people and animals with behavioral problems and taught me that it really is "the little things" - toward the end we had to walk outside for hours in the wee hours of the morning, and I really came to love our 2AM jaunts. I miss walking around with her in the moonlight, listening to the owls hoot and the birds just begin to wake.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Aw, I am so sorry for your loss. I fostered about a year ago, it's tough to let them go so I totally understand how you ended up being her forever home. Thank you for providing a loving home to a pup in need. Sending healing thoughts your way during this difficult time.

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Debbie R

While I was in college for a history degree I volunteered at my local historical society so I would have something to put on my resume. There I was introduced to the fascinating (to me at least!) world of museum work and have now been doing it for over twenty years. Without that initial volunteer experience I never would have learned that it was a career option. Now my eldest daughter is also studying at college to work in museums once she graduates. One volunteer opportunity has now lead to two generations of museum workers!

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CR Williams

I have to say when my group and I volunteered at a children's center. We had a great time in the Lord.

Guest's picture
K

In my area of the country (the Northeast), many communities have 'swap shops'. Think thrift shop/Goodwill/Salvation Army type of place, but everything is FREE, donated by community members, for community members. The space to run the 'shops' is often donated by the town. There is no requirement to prove 'need' and anyone from town is welcome to donate or 'shop' (or both!). In our town, our swap shop is very large with sections including clothing, linens, baby items, household goods, books, toys, crafts, and small electronics. We are open on Saturday mornings, and it takes a small army of volunteers to sort and put out donations.

I have seen mothers in a tight financial spot with tears of gratitude in their eyes when the swap shop could provide the school clothes their children needed when they could not afford them. I have seen elderly 'shut ins' blossom with their weekly 'shopping' trips that get them out of the house and interacting with other people in the community. I have taken part in opening the 'store' off-schedule to let in a family displaced by fire where they lost everything and we wanted to give them access to clothing and some toys for their kids when they had nothing but the clothes on their back. I have seen parents shop the toy section for gifts for their children for birthdays or Christmas when purchasing gifts was out of the question. I have seen the relief in a young expectant mother's eyes when she discovers she can get the baby equipment she needs without paying a dime. So many in dire need find what they seek in our little free town store.

We took in enough monetary donations (used to heat the space in the winter) one year that when the local food bank expressed a dire need for help, we were able to donate $500 from our funds to help them continue their good work.

I have filled not my shopping bag but my heart instead with things I needed as well. New friends of various generations in both my fellow volunteers and many members of the community that I would not get a chance to know outside of the swap shop. A sense of deep gratitude for what I have in my life when I see others in need find some relief among our shelves. An astounding sense of pride that while I may not be able to buy someone else's child school clothes or toys for the Holidays, I can donate my time to still make those things possible for them.

I've found some neat material items while volunteering at my local swap shop, but I far more treasure the feeling that by contributing some of my time, I'm contributing so much more to so many people in my own backyard. My time volunteering has enriched MY life on so many more levels than I ever imagined possible and I will remain a volunteer there always!

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Liisa

Right now I volunteer at a non-profit thrift store that funds a health clinic and a middle school in the worst part of town. It has been especially meaningful as I have chronic illness and don't have a regular job right now, so this has given me a wonderful way to give back a little bit and make the most of a rough patch in life! :)

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Kim

I spent the summer between my Junior and Senior year of college volunteering with a relief organization in Malawi. It was truly a life-changing experience that opened up my eyes to social justice and public health issues and ultimately led me to a change in career aspirations.

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DeeDee

When my kids were younger I helped out at school with art projects a number of times and the kids were always so excited to have a different person there. It sure helped the teacher to have an extra set of hands to help with the kids.

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Dawn Keenan

The Christmas following my late husband's suicide, I volunteered on Christmas day at a meal for the homeless. I felt so energized ministering to those in need, that I totally forgot about my pain. Now, 10 years later, the pain has faded and I am reminded of those ladies and gentlemen who had no one to spend Christmas with, and no money to buy dinner. I am reminded of how blessed I am.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Kudos to you to turning your loss into something positive. Very inspiring.

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Jennifer Marie

being a candy striper!!

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Cari Cook

I volunteer at a nonprofit (Reading & Radio Resource, Dallas, TX) that produces books on CD for visually impaired clients. It's very rewarding because I love to read and it warms heart that I can provide others with the same joy. It's made me grateful that I still have my vision.

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Liz

I volunteered at an elementary school in India, in a suburb outside of New Delhi. It was so incredibly eye opening, not least because the "school" was just a gathering of students and a few teachers in a park. There was no building and school was often cancelled due to cold weather in the winter. Most children attended more to receive the free school lunches than an education, and often they older children wouldn't eat the lunch but would wrap it up to bring home to share with their family for their dinner. Yet, their spirt and happiness was so infectious. Such an amazing and eye opening experience.

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Lani C

I've been volunteering a lot this year and they've all had big impacts on me, but in different ways. The one I've enjoyed the most is volunteering at my kids school. I love meeting all my kids friends and teachers and it's fun. Volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding facility has made me appreciate how blessed my family is. And mentoring an at risk child through a program at my church is hopefully the one that will make a huge impact on somebody else.

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C.j.

I spent 2 years volunteering with Special needs children and transporting patients throughout the hospital. Its an eye opening experience because its great to see how far the kids have progressed in therapy the two years you were with them and was also interesting to see all the behind the scenes work at the hospital. It surely isn't like what you see on t.v. that's for sure LOL!

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Monique

Volunteering at my local Humane Society has shown me just how deep the bond can be between people and their pets. And though there are, of course, sad stories about people who have a lot less regard for animal life than for their own, the stories that truly affect me every time are those about how much people in my community do for animals in need.

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Kenny F

It was a eye opening experience

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Tina

While I do try to put in my bit for the betterment of humanity, whenever possible, I think my most life changing experience was when I joined a program initiated by the Social Work Department at the college where I worked temporarily as a faulty of the English Department. The Social Work Department was attempting to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and made it a 2-year programme. The more I got involved, the more I realized how little I knew and how much more I could do. The time I spend working with them made me realize how privileged I was despite what I thought, and how little was known about this issue. The programme made me realize what a lot I could do even if I had nothing. Time and care were the only things really required of one. My enthusiasm spread and soon the students I taught were volunteering as well. One cannot quantify the impact of such a programme, but I do know that what we managed to do has helped prevent at least a few children stay safe.

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Jeff Walker

My first experience volunteering really opened up my eyes on how much I enjoyed it! I'm currently putting together a non-profit organization that provides and creates volunteering in our community. This will be for all ages and will help create leaders for tomorrow by getting our youth involved! This is also ideal for career seeking for middle and high school students to get hands on experience and start to build their resume! Volunteering can also change lives by just picking out a day and picking out a specific neighborhood and offering help to do yard work, especially for the elderly in our community. I'm very passionate about the opportunities I've had to be able to connect with like-minded individuals like myself who always give their time to the community to make a huge impact! I want to create community leaders for tomorrow and set the example for other communities around the country because of our efforts!

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Barbara Montag

Volunteering for Toys for Tots had been a big impact on me.
To see the joy other parents have to be able to get Christmas gifts!
thank you

barbara (dot) montyj (at) gmail (dot) com

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Sheila

Volunteering at a soup kitchen gives me a whole new appreciation of my own ability to work at a paying job.

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Liz

Volunteering to help school kids has had a huge impact on me. I not only was able to help out, but also have a lot of fun myself, and connect to the future! There's so few teachers in the classroom per student nowadays that the students loved to have some adult attention. It's also really amazing to see the kids over time and how much they grow and learn. I see theme every two weeks and there is always such a difference.

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Bekki

I volunteer in the Children's Ministry at my church. It is so interesting to see the children grow and change over the years. I've been following my daughter in her class since she was in the walker's room (1 year old's), and now she is in the 3's class. The kid's are so fun to get to know and to see what they are able to learn from our lessons each week. I am still amazed when they really understand and implement our teaching. They are all so smart and kind.

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Guest

I really enjoyed being a big sister in YMCA's Big Brother/Big Sister program. I was matched with a young girl who had grown up in an abusive home and her foster family was trying to give her some guidance and stability. Even though we spent most of our time at the park or library - she told me that she was grateful for my company and friendship. She still writes me occasional letters to tell me how she's doing (in a biology program in a top University!) It was a rewarding experience to say the least.

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lisa

Being a Big Sister through Big Brothers and Big Sisters was powerful. The child I mentored had such challenges, through no fault of their own.

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Therese

I volunteered at our local community theater, making costumes and ushering. Our whole family got involved and we had great bonding experiences together and met a lot of great people we remain in contact with.

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Selene Montgomery

We've volunteered with charity fund-raising bicycle events. One is 200 miles over two days, with lesser mile-routes. As a support and gear wagon, we ride the route watching for any problems with traffic or riders. To see the determination of the riders to finish no matter what, particularly in bad weather, is amazing. They believe in the sponsoring charity and will do everything they can to complete the course. Their enthusiasm is definitely contagious.

Guest's picture
Guest

This Christmas we couldn't afford to go home and be with our family. We have a new baby and I was feeling sad we couldn't make the trip so I wanted to start our own tradition. On Christmas Day we loaded up, dressed my then 4 month old in a Santa suit and headed to a hospital. We met up with a group of people and went up and down the floors and hallways singing Christmas carols. I'll never forget the tears rolling down the face of an elderly woman, sitting alone in the hospital on Christmas day, as we sang her requested "Silent Night" or the somber faces of family members in the Intensive Care Unit light up as we sang "Deck the Halls." This is definitely something that we plan on doing each Christmas and will be a fun way for our little one to grow up giving back on a day that can be all about receiving!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

How adorable! What a sweet thing to spend your Christmas doing.

Guest's picture
Richard Hicks

One volunteer experience that I got a lot out of was helping a local animal shelter out. They rescue dogs and cats and give them vet care and get them ready for adoption. I actually adopted two kitties from them!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Love that! Thank you for giving two lucky kitties a wonderful home!

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Amanda

I have volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House helping families stay close to their children who are being treated at a nearby hospital. Being able to call a family in need and tell them a room was available so they wouldn't have to pay for a hotel was a great feeling, though often times the waiting list was so long that you knew many would not get that call. The thanks the volunteers would get on a daily basis let us know our time and energy were directly helping those in need.

Guest's picture
Sally johnson

I volunteer at an inner city school, helping children (ages 5 to 8) learn English. I have learned that children from families speaking another language really pick up English and thrive learning this second language. These children impress me so much because many have immigrated to this country from horrid conditions. They go home to families who do not know English, which is the language they are taught in

I will log in 300 hours of this volunteer work next week and I would love to win something because it will go right back to this school.

I am grateful for this volunteer experience

Guest's picture
Lance

The volunteer experience that had the deepest impact for me was when I helped teach Junior Achievement curriculum in a day. My firm went to an elementary school and we taught financial literacy and entrepreneurship concepts and the kids ate it up! It was so much fun to inspire kids to learn about money and businesses.e

Guest's picture
Lisa

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Central America. It opened my eyes to poverty and development. It also greatly changed the way I define a need in my life. The people in the house behind me had 12 children and all lived in 2 rooms. That fact alone makes it impossible for me to say I need to remodel my kitchen. Want? Yes. But need? No.
25 year old vinyl flooring is absolutely lovely compared to the dirt floors my neighbor had.

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Susan P.

I volunteered at my daughter's high school as President of the Chorus Boosters for 4 years. I was also in charge of uniforms and got to know the students and interact with them on a daily basis. What a great bunch of kids!

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Mary W

I volunteer every week with an Animal Rescue Group. We gather supplies and help out 10 other rescue groups. The need for good homes is tremendous. The animals are caught in a bad situation caused by humans and we can change that! I have met many wonderful people and animals and find tremendous reward in championing for the innocent.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

I'm always blown away by the passion that people in the animal rescue world have. It's just so inspiring!

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J.A.

I volunteered at a homeless shelter. Hearing the stories of people who are truly in need is an eye-opening experience.

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Jason

I spent sometime in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. While there I worked a lot with Habitat for Humanity (HFH). I learned that HFH does not "give" houses to people. The people receiving the home must provide what HFH calls sweat equity. They must work on the house themselves volunteering along with everyone else. I got to know the families in the 23 total homes that we built or refurnished while I was in Virginia. Each family had a different story to tell, but they all wanted to become a home owner someday. HFH allowed them an opportunity to learn about the process of building the home from the foundation up. The future home owner would also have to pay a mortgage on the house - again HFH does not "give" houses to families. The mortgage was usually based on what it cost in materials since most of the labor was provided by volunteers.

Putting a family in a new home not only changes the life of those individuals, but it creates a sort of pay-it-forward atmosphere in the neighborhood. We often fixed up homes near the place HFH was building and I would see the family members at new job sites still helping out long after their sweet equity hours (usually over 500) was complete.

There is great reward in helping someone achieve a dream of owning a home.

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Christa

Volunteering my time at a local hospice house has had the most impact on me. When you are at the end of your life your world takes on a whole new meaning and those people that live are more than an inspiration.

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Bethany

I volunteer at church. I love those big learners in little bodies.

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Donna Bennett

A friend of mine runs a non-profit called "Party Pepper Uppers." The overall goal of PPU is to provide birthday party bags for children in places like the Ronald McDonald Houses, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other places that work with children who might have their day brightened with a birthday party! For many of these children they have never before had a special party JUST FOR THEM! I participate/volunteer regularly to collect supplies and help "fill" the bags with donated cake mixes, party favors, streamers, balloons, invitations, paper goods, etc. EVERYTHING needed to have a party! The photos we have received in return with the smiling faces of these adorable children enjoying their special day is indescribable! Such a worthwhile and rewarding way to volunteer!!!

Ashley Jacobs's picture

This is so awesome! What a wonderful non-profit for your friend to start. I absolutely love that idea!

Guest's picture
Bobby in PA

I used to volunteer at an eco club in high school, where we did everything from collecting recyclable goods to assisting at local animal shelters. But to me, the most impactful project we ever did was the beach cleanups. I used to see beaches as nice, pristine places, but after discovering how much trash can be dumped on a beach, it horrified me into action. Not only does it affect the people on the beach, it affects the marine life as well. I felt like I was doing my part in keeping the beaches safe and clean for everyone to enjoy, since the world is a very beautiful place and we should try our hardest to keep it that way.

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Stephanie

My friend and I are aspiring doctors who volunteer at the local free clinic in my college town, and it gives both of us so much joy that we can help out people who wouldn't normally have access to this kind of care. We see so many different faces day in and day out and some days can be more hectic than others, but what we love the most is seeing patients smile and feel so happy after they've been cared for.

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David

I volunteered with a very nice organization that aimed to increase political engagement within the youth community, which I thought was a great cause that not many people have thought about yet. I did everything from phone banks to setting up workshops with state congressmen to even getting other adults to sign up to vote. The club made me realize how important it was that everyone cared and got involved with what's happening in politics because it affects people more than they realized.

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Judith Barbuto

Ryan, Shadow and I volunteered at a rehab hospital for four years when Ryan, my son, was in high school. It was through Intermountain Therapy Animals. It was amazing to see this growing young man bring out his pastoral nature with the elderly people we met. He carried a red blanket with him and would lift Shadow, our dog, to lie on the bed with sick or injured people. Watching their faces as that sweet team of dog and boy/man walked into the room will stay with me forever. Thursday nights were our nights. Early on Thursday morning the patients would begin to ask if Ryan and Shadow would be there. "Yes, of course," always brought a smile. I learned so much about volunteering in a rehab facility. But more importantly, I learned about my wonderful son and his capabilities. He's all grown up now, with a home of his own, but those memories of him, gently placing Shadow with a hurting person, will remain with me always.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Love this! Animals really are such great healers. How wonderful of you and Ryan to share your sweet Shadow with those that could benefit from her presence.

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Michelle

I remember trying to do as much community service and volunteering programs as I could back in high school because I had thought it was necessary to make your college apps look good. But then I volunteered with my school's primary community service organization and that's when I realized that I actually loved helping out my community and giving back and that I should do it for reasons other than making myself look better. Haha now that I look back, I wish I started sooner.

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Russ

Every year of college, I have volunteered for the Berkeley Project. On select days of the year, they hold a all day-long city beautification event that sends volunteers all around the city of Berkeley to clean up trash, plant new trees, and much more. What impacts me the most about the Berkeley Project is how many people come out and help with this awesome cause. In my senior year, I saw like 2000 people gather and then spread out to go clean up Berkeley. It was freakin incredible! I was just inspired and honored to be a part of it all. As a cool bonus, they give every volunteer a free T-shirt to wear, so we all look unified as we set out to clean up the city.

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Sam

I volunteered as a tutor at the local library in my hometown a couple years back. I was teaching algebra to elementary school kids. While some of them were more reluctant to learn than others, I kept coming back to help because of my experience with this one 4th grader, who ran straight into the library one day to show me his first A in his math class. I can barely begin to describe the happiness on his face and mine, but it was an amazing feeling knowing that someone could appreciate your help like that.

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Mary C

I do a lot of volunteering at an animal shelter. I'm a huge animal lover, but my apartment landlord doesn't allow pets inside the unit, so this is the next best thing for me. I love the experience because I get to take care and play with animals. Although nothing makes me sadder than finding a new abandoned dog or cat. But I take care of them like they're my own family :)

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Lily

I love volunteering for the LA AIDS Walk! I've walked it myself a couple times already, but volunteering at the event is another great experience on itself. You get to see all the happy faces of the people doing the walk and knowing how great of a cause they're helping. The runners and walkers are also happy to see me because I'm giving them water and goodies! Its a great atmosphere all around. My friends and I have a blast every time we help out.

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vanessa e

Animal shelters get most of my time. Makes me want to take them all home! One of my dreams is to have a huge farm with a whole bunch of doggies! Loyal friends forever.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

You sound just like me! One day I hope to be able to open my own animal rescue. :)

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Amy

I have a friend who works at a nearby aquarium, and he lets me know of volunteer opportunities that pop there since he knows how much I love sea animals. My absolute favorite thing to do is feeding some of the animals. They just get so excited when they see the food and they're so happy when they're fed!

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Jenna H.

A while back, I volunteered with an Asian American community center, where my main responsibility was to give historical tours of the alleyways in SF Chinatown. It was already amazing when I first learned about the history myself, but nothing is better than seeing the many people I've given the tour too become just as amazed as I was at the life that exists in these unknown communities. Having studied Asian American Studies in college, i know how important it is for this culture and history to live on and be remembered. Too often people pass by these important landmarks without knowing how essential to the city they really are.

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Michelle Weaver

My basketball team volunteered to visit a nursing home around the holidays and spend time with the elderly playing games and visiting and chatting. Many of the people didn't have any family that came to visit on a regular basis or even just for the holidays so it was sad to see, but so wonderful to be able to put a smile on their faces.

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Nichole McKinnon

Thanks for the chance @nicholemckinnon

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Becky

I volunteered with the Miracle Field / Miracle League program, which provides opportunities for individuals of all ages with disabilities to play baseball, regardless of ability. (The field is a solid surface, which allows handicapped accessibility over the entire field. The bases are painted on the field so they don't create tripping hazards or obstacles - so children and adults using wheelchairs, crutches, or walkers can easily maneuver.) Seeing the joy on someone's face while they are able to play a sport that they never have been able to before - yep, that's stuck with me.

Donna Freedman's picture

When I was very broke (protracted divorce, midlife college student) I offered to help sort clothing donated to a family shelter. It was a huge tangle in a small area and the other volunteers kept bumping into one another as we struggled to make sense of the stuff.
I was feeling claustrophobic and cranky, and was also acutely aware that I had homework to do and I also needed to vacuum the apartment building I was then managing.
Then I thought, "Will you LISTEN to yourself?"
"Be thankful you have a place of your own. Be thankful you have the chance to go to school at your age (or any age). Be thankful you have a job to complain about."
I needed that attitude adjustment. And I was grateful to get it.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

Sometimes seeing what other people don't have really makes you appreciate what you do have. Great story Donna. Thank you for sharing!

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Henry L.

My friends and I have done a lot of volunteering at our church. We helped prepared the food for the daily meals they serve there. It felt a bit tedious at times, but my friends as well as the other church volunteers helped made it really fun. I also felt really happy to be helping my community too.

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Ryan

I volunteered to be an assistant coach for my little brother's baseball team one summer. I didn't think much of it at first since I was mostly there to take care of my brother, but the longer I kept doing it, the more I found myself enjoying the gig. I was surprised by how competitive the little kids could get and how well they played the game. They could seriously give some major baseball players a run for their money. But most of all, I just enjoyed seeing my brother and his friends having a great time.

Guest's picture

What volunteer experience had the deepest impact on you? The volunteer experience that had the deepest impact for me is when I volunteered as an English Teacher with WorldTeach in China Hunan Program. What made it so impactful? What made it so impactful was what I learned from my Chinese students as well as what I could share with them about my experience being a Latina. Did you share the experience with someone else? I volunteered in 2009-2010 and I am still sharing stories about my experience!

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Meredith

When I was learning how to play the piano, my piano teacher asked me to practice more by volunteering to play for the elderly at a retirement home. I was super scared that i wouldn't play well, but she assured me that they'd just appreciate me just playing the piano. I was still nervous when I started out, but eventually I realized how happy they all were hearing me play. And it motivated me to play better faster! It was just incredible and I still thank my piano teacher to this day for making me volunteer.

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Eric Bertsch

Only Schwab steps in when they know they can help.

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I am a VITA volunteer for the first few months of the year during tax season. VITA volunteers provide FREE Income Tax Preparation Assistance to low-Income, elderly, disabled and limited English speaking people. It's rewarding that I can offer a service that will benefit them, as they usually get something back from filing their taxes.

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Marla C.

My boyfriend and I have really busy jobs, but we still take the time to go help out at the local food bank whenever we can. Sorting and packing food may not seem like the ideal way to spend a free day to most people, but for both of us, it feels great to do some good and actually makes us feel more relaxed. We've been able to get some of our other friends to help out as well.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

That is fantastic you have something you can do to make a difference with your boyfriend! I think that's just awesome. :)

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Jessie

Last year, I started volunteering at the library in my hometown after having frequented there so often. The library staff has always been so friendly and kind to me, so I thought this would be a nice way for me to repay their kindness. I mostly sort through returned books and repair damaged materials, which is quite calming. But I've also discovered many cool new books to read this way as well. I've been volunteering there for so long that visitors now consider me part of the staff and ask me for help (:

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Danny from NY

I'm involved in an organization at my college that outreaches to local high schools and helps them learn how to code and make computer programs. We set up and host tutoring sessions in which we help interested students get a head start on learning computer science and programming. I volunteer as often as I can, but my course load keeps me from devoting myself 100%. But I love what this organization does because I believe that computer science should become a part of all high schools' general curriculum because our society today is so dependent on computer technology and more people are needed to continue the innovation.

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Michelle

I had so my pride helping at our homeless shelter when me and my mom made apple pies for a fundraiser they had there so others could buy clothes.

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Sheryl Edwards

Donating food to the local county food bank always makes the deepest impact on me.
The director told me that one in four children in our county goes to bed hungry each night. I find that so upsetting. NO child in our country much less in my county should ever have to go to bed hungry!